Friday, May 15, 2009

Distributed Application Management - New Challenges, New Approaches

Last year, I wrote about the differences between application management and traditional system management. In this new series, I am going to examine the new challenges presented by managing distributed applications further, and talk about the new approaches needed to address these needs. These new approaches include:

- Integrated management solutions that are designed specifically for managing applications in order to achieve the quickest return on investments
- Application platforms that are management-aware
- Ability to map and track application service levels to actual business processes and flows so that applications’ compliance to business requirements can be assessed more easily and accurately
- End-to-end performance monitoring, diagnostics and root-cause analysis across the broad application environment and its underlying technology stack to account for all the elements that affect application service levels
- Rapid remediation of issues regardless of where they occur in the entire technology stack

The problem with traditional system management approaches is that they focused on providing frameworks independent from the application environments that they are supposed to manage. These frameworks were essentially toolkits for solving particular management problems such as managing configurations, monitoring and diagnostics. Users of these frameworks had to undertake costly implementation efforts to integrate the toolkits with the application environments, and integrate the different toolkits for solving different management problems. The ensuing maintenance of these kinds of implementations turned out to be cost prohibitive for even the largest IT organizations.

Furthermore, little attention was paid to building in management awareness in application platforms. As a result, traditional system management tools had a hard time managing these applications, as these tools were built with limited insights on how the applications and their platforms operate, and the tools had to rely on the limited information that the platforms exposed.

A better strategy is to build application platforms together with the tools for managing them. This integrated approach ensures useful management information is exposed that your management tools and your application platform work well together. In addition, integrated management software that is designed to support specific types of application environments already have the necessary integration defined. They are much more useful out-of-the-box, and reduce the costs and risks for implementation. A key reason why the new approach works better is that applications and the tools for managing them are engineered to work together.